Have you listened to a song and been instantly transported back to a special time and place in your life? Or maybe you turned the radio on and noticed your bad mood gradually shifted to a good mood. No matter what stage of life, music holds the power to open our hearts and minds.
At Interim HealthCare of the Upstate, our holistic approach to care focuses on the whole person – mind, body, spirit, and family. We’re using music therapy as a powerful tool to offer comfort and healing to our hospice patients and their loved ones.
Recently, we sat down with one of our music therapists, DJ Poplin, to discuss the benefits of music therapy in hospice care. Here's what we asked her:
Can you explain what music therapy is and what you do as a music therapist?
Music therapy is a tool that uses music to help address cognitive, physical, spiritual, and emotional goals by using various musical techniques. In my training to become a music therapist, I had to learn over 200 songs spanning all types of cultural styles and genres. Our patients come from many diverse backgrounds. You never know what kind of music someone will respond to, so you have to be ready to adapt to their wants and needs. One person may want to sing Christmas songs in July, and another may want to analyze the lyrics to a Beatles song.
I sing and play various instruments, but just as much as I’m a musician, I’m also a therapist. Being a therapist, I have to be able to make assessments and recommendations for my patients' needs and goals, as well as provide detailed notes in their clinical chart, so there’s a lot that goes on “behind the scenes.”
What can be achieved through music therapy?
Music therapy is all about working on goals. Some examples of goals and ways to meet those goals are:
Cognitive Stimulation: Studies have shown listening to well-known songs can improve brain function for Alzheimer’s patients.
Emotional Expression: Songwriting can help with collecting and organizing thoughts.
Spiritual Support: Patients can foster a spiritual connection by listening to or singing some of their favorite hymns.
Grief Support: Listening to or singing songs that remind someone of a loved one who has passed away can provide comfort and healing.
Can you share a story of how you've seen music therapy impact a patient and family?
I was seeing a patient who was originally from India, but he loved listening to and learning about American music. Throughout our sessions together, I would share American songs and give a history of the artist, and he would share Indian songs with me. In Indian classical music, improvisation is an important component, so I'd bring instruments and drums, and his family would join us as we played music together. He would put so much energy to our music sessions, even though he was battling stage 4 cancer. His son told me with music therapy, his father's English improved, and he seemed more upbeat, happy, and engaged. He helped me understand music's power to reach across different cultures and languages.
What's your favorite thing about being a music therapist?
My favorite thing is the people I get to meet along the way. I’ve always wanted to help people through music. With this job, you may see families walking a difficult path, but with music, you see sparks of hope, light, and positivity shine through. It’s an honor to be a part of someone’s spiritual and emotional journey.
At Interim HealthCare, we go above and beyond traditional hospice services by providing enriching programs, such as music therapy, aromatherapy, and the We Honor Veterans program. During a time that can be especially stressful, we help you and your family find the peace and comfort you deserve at the time you need it most.To learn more about our hospice care: